Aaron Steinmetz

...be very still...the bird's angry...and I think he can see us.

Cocoa Tales: Episode One

Chapter One: Being a Brief Tale of How Cocoa Met Harold

In the woods west of Redding, down a long dirt road barely recognizable from the overgrowth that moved in when the Gold Rush ended there was a particular rock buried deep within the mountain. Woodland critters took no note of the rock, and neither did the deer as they cautiously sipped from a babbling brook running by it.

Dust particles illuminated as a beam of light shone through the canopy: a cloud drifted away from the sun, and the beam only grew brighter as the boulder began moving.

A slight rumble, a bit of dust slipping from the dirt above it as its form fell free of its bonds. The deer froze, a few droplets of water falling from her chin. The woodland critters stood on their hind legs and watched as the boulder slowly rolled away revealing a dark chasm behind it.

The deer took a step toward it and then froze. She knew she shouldn’t approach the cave, but the smells within! Roasted fruit, grasses, freshly hewn from a field unknown to the deer. Indeed, she would have run blindly into the cave had she not also smelled something eerily similar to her own body. She had only smelled it once before when, running from a mountain lion, she had cut her leg on a rock, and the smell that ran from the cut...

The deer took a step away from the cave, and another. And when the voice echoed from the chamber she sprinted hard and fast, forgetting immediately about the alfalfa odor that almost sent her to her death.

The voice proclaimed: "Cocoa Tael! Your time has come! You have trained under Mandrake the Magician and he has found you ready to face the final trial! You must enter into the world! You must assassinate a human being! You must return with proof of death! And you must not return until you perform your first kill! Then you will be a member of the sacred order of the Felidus! You must perform this task within half a human year or you must return in shame! Do you understand your assignment?"

Silence. A nod had been enough for the voice.

"Then go, Cocoa Tael, and do not return until you have vanquished a human being!"

The noise that followed sent the remaining woodland critters into all directions away from the cave. They sprinted away, some following the deer, some forging their own path. None of them would return again, even once, for the remainder of their short, adorable lives.

The noise, it was enough to chill the blood of any creature. The squall, the howl, layered upon each other, one and another and another, it grew as the first sign of movement within the cave came into light. A full grown house cat, a Siamese stepped into daylight slowly planting one paw in front of another. The beam of light dimmed and disappeared taking its dust particles with it. The cloud had returned, and more would follow, for Cocoa Tael had at long last left the safety of the Felidus to the danger of the world.

The boulder began rolling, slowly rumbling underneath the sound of the otherworldly howl until it slowly found its home against the mountain. With a hiss, it slid into place, completely silencing the howling behind it.

Cocoa continued stepping through the wet grass. She stepped over the babbling brook and walked toward the cliff overlooking Redding. She felt the cool, moist grass in her fur as she sat at the overlook and watched Redding below her. A thundercloud in the distance lit and a rumble soon followed.

And she smiled.